Where are all the Radeon HD 5800 series cards?

AMD impressed reviewers and customers alike with the release of its new generation of DirectX 11 capable graphics cards, the Radeon HD 5870 and Radeon HD 5850. These cards, which generally list for $380 and $260 respectively, have proven to be the fastest graphics cards in their price class, and the fastest graphics cards using a single GPU at any price (graphics cards with two GPUs on them are sometimes faster in some tests, though often more expensive). Power utilization and noise levels are impressive, too.

Unfortunately, if you want to buy one, you might just be out of luck. A quick check of Newegg.com finds no Radeon HD 5870 or 5850 cards in stock at all. TigerDirect.com has only one 5870 card and one 5850 card in stock, all the others are either preorder-only or backordered. The situation looks the same all over - the cards are either sold out or nearly so, and prices are starting to rise due to scarcity. It's great that AMD has a hit on their hands, but that's no good if you can't get ahold of one.

I asked AMD's top graphics PR guy, Chris Hook, what's going on. Are they just selling really well, or were there not that many in the channel to begin with? He said:

"We launched with tens of thousands of units in Q3 and into Q4. Admittedly, supply is light right now due to overwhelming demand, but this issue is temporary and will be alleviated quickly. Think in terms of weeks, not months. ....The overwhelming majority of these parts went to the channel."

The answer is a little fuzzy. "In Q3 and into Q4" leaves a lot of wiggle room for that "tens of thousands of units" launch. Is the channel still waiting on some of those, or have the "launch" units been depleated? Graphics manufacturers are rarely very specific about shipment volumes, though. The good news is, at least according to Hook, the channel should be full up again shortly. With Windows 7 launching and all the hot PC games releasing in the next few weeks, he had better hope so - November is no time for your hottest product to be impossible to find

Follow Jason Cross on twitter or visit his blog.

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